THE GIFT OF WATER

Fond memories of summer by the big lake

By Linda Johnson
Dad drove the Chevy wagon right up onto the sandy bank where we first stepped out—dad, mother, we four kids, the dog. There lay Lake Superior, spread out like a dream. “Heavenly!” mother said in her native German. Across the decades, I can still see her on that day, standing in her green bathing suit, wind blowing her copper hair, father’s arm wrapped around her. The two of them are watching us children in the water, but mother’s gaze strays out across the lake, beyond.
That was the summer my brothers and I spent cooling off in the backyard with buckets of water. It was the summer dad quit drinking and the summer when we first saw Superior. One evening when dad came home from the Chevy plant, mother was making liverwurst sandwiches with pickles. “I’m not hungry,” he said, his back to her, walking outside to smoke. Mother had four children to care for all day in the heat, and she was tired but mostly, I think, hurt. Father seemed not to appreciate all that she did.
But that following Saturday morning, we packed for the camping trip…

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